A heavy funk band brand new to KoreaWhen acid jazz first came on the scene, The Brand New Heavies were in the thick of it. The London-based band pioneered new sounds, pouring out jazz, hip-hop and funk in small, sweaty, hot venues.
That was more than 15 years ago. The Brand New Heavies ― Simon Bartholomew on guitar, Andrew Levy on bass, Jan Kincaid on drums ― has released six studio albums, performed at smash concerts and festivals, and collaborated with up-and-coming and famous musicians.
The latest Heavies album, “We Won’t Stop,” was released in Korea earlier this year. This time, the lead singer is Nicole Russo, a 24-year-old R&B singer who released her own solo effort, “Through My Eyes,” last summer.
The band, including Ms. Russo, will be performing in Seoul on Sunday night at the main auditorium of Sejong University. The addition of Ms. Russo should add a new element to the mix. “She’s untapped talent,” Mr. Kincaid says from his home in London.
Metiscom, an events promotion company based in Korea, heard about The Heavies’s Asia tour, and asked the band to jam in Korea. “There’s a hip-hop club boom in Korea, and we thought The Brand New Heavies vibe would work,” says Cho Si-young, project manager at Metiscom.
The band was originally planning to perform in Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia and Japan. But the spread of SARS, the pneumonia-like disease, has limited the tour to just Japan and Korea.
Ms. Russo has been touted as a new R&B queen, England’s reply to America’s Alecia Keys and India.Aria. Mr. Kincaid first heard of Ms. Russo a few years ago, but it was “Through My Eyes” that piqued his interest. The two began collaborating on non-Heavies music. “I liked her vibe,” Mr. Kincaid said. “It was different.” Finally, about two months ago, the band invited Ms. Russo to join them.
The Brand New Heavies often collaborates with other artists. Working with someone new can create unexpected, fresh sounds. “We’re not just The Brand New Heavies,” Mr. Kincaid says. “We’re musicians and producers. These days, you can’t just be in a band, unless you’re the Rolling Stones.”
The Brand New Heavies are also childhood friends. Mr. Kincaid calls Mr. Bartholomew “the unexpected side: When he’s playing, he’ll play something unbelievable, and you’ve got to grab it.” Mr. Levy is “all about bass lines and the funk, and programming.” As for Mr. Kincaid, he says Mr. Levy calls him the spiritual leader.
It was in 1985 that the three, and initially Ceri Evans, created The Brand New Heavies. It was a time when hip-hop was just beginning to take off.
But when The Heavies hit the rare groove club scene, they carried the torch for acid jazz, eventually adding singers to their sound. The single “Never Stop” was a sensation in the United States, while “Dream on Dreamer,” “Midnight at the Oasis” and the band’s cover of “You’ve Got a Friend” made the U.K. Top 20. Singles like “Dream Come True,” “Never Stop” and “We Are the Universe” were hugely popular in Korea. And now, the Korean pop group Roller Coaster touts them as an inspiration.
The Heavies mixture of jazz, hip-hop and funk is starting to come around again, with Incognito and Jazzyfatnastees releasing albums last year. Now, Mr. Kincaid says, “We’re quite hungry.”
When the band was in the recording studio for “We Won’t Stop,” they didn’t have a record deal. Unencumbered by any restrictions other than their own, they chose to approach the experience with an open mind. What came out was more humorous and harder than their other albums, but just as groovy.
“The music represents where we were at that time,” Mr. Kincaid says. “We were having more fun than ever, if you can believe that.”
by Joe Yong-hee
For concert information, call (02) 784-5118 or visit the Web site www.ticketlink.co.kr. Tickets for the Sunday concert cost from 44,000 to 88,000 won ($37-$73).